Hydropower in Europe continued to grow in 2018, with 2.2 GW added. The majority of new installed capacity occurred outside of the European Union, with 1,085 MW in Turkey and 419 MW in Norway. Within the EU, traditional hydropower mainstays Austria (385 MW) and Italy (88 MW) all increased their hydropower installed capacity, with remaining European countries adding a further 225 MW.
The bulk of Europe’s renewable electricity is provided by hydropower. In 2018, hydropower generated an estimated 643 TWh (not including generation from pumped storage), which accounts for approximately 17 per cent of total generation. Wind and solar have grown considerably in the last 10 years, from nearly 64 GW and 16 GW in 2008 to 190 GW and 127 GW, respectively, in 2018, accounting for the vast majority of new installed generating capacity.
The substantial growth of renewables, coupled with the decommissioning of large-scale conventional synchronous generators, has put increased onus on hydropower’s ability to provide flexibility in order to maintain secure, affordable and sustainable energy supply under the EU’s Framework Strategy for the Energy Union. Launched in 2015, the Energy Union drives regional energy and climate policies.
In late 2018, the European Commission presented its strategy for a climate neutral Europe by 2050, and followed up three months later with a pledge to invest over EUR 10 billion in innovative clean technologies under its Innovation Fund for climate action, starting in 2020. The Innovation Fund seeks to enable innovative low-carbon technologies and processes, including renewable energy generation and energy storage.
The Innovation Fund complements the EU’s ongoing Horizon 2020 programme which supports the Hydropower-Europe initiative, launched in early 2019 to develop a research and innovation agenda and strategic innovation roadmap for hydropower.
European electricity grids have increased their level of interconnection in recent years, and there are plans to further enhance cross-border power transmission capacities through the EU’s Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) strategy. This builds upon the EU’s 2014 objective that EU members should have international transmission interconnection capacity of at least 10 per cent of total domestic generation capacity by 2020. Germany’s power system, already connected to 12 other power systems, is still seeking to expand (see country profile).
In 2018, Turkey added over 1 GW of new hydropower capacity in a bid to meet growing power demand, over 5.5 per cent annually on average since 2002, and to reduce reliance on energy imports. Turkey connected the 625 MW Upper Kaleköy project in 2018, making it the country’s seventh largest hydropower project. Located in the east of the country, the project is one of a cascade of six projects along the Murat River, including the 580 MW Beyhan 1 project completed in 2015, and the 500 MW Lower Kaleköy project scheduled for completion in 2020. In the same region, Turkey also commissioned the 140 MW Kiğı project during 2018.
Norway completed the replacement of the 210 MW Lysebotn plant, first commissioned in 1953, with a new 370 MW project named Lysebotn II, making it one of the larger projects in the country. The project involved constructing a new underground powerhouse to take advantage of more than 600 metres of available head. Norwegian hydropower is today seeing a minor resurgence in tunnelling. Lysebotn together with the 80 MW Rosten project, which became operational in 2018, are part of a small number of new tunnel hydropower projects that also include the 85 MW Nedre Røssåga project, due for completion in 2020. Other smaller-scale projects were also completed in 2018, including Storelva (12.4 MW) and Tverråa (4.7 MW). Storelva and Tverräa represent the final two greenfield projects out of five commissioned by Helgeland Kraft since 2015 (3.7 MW Leiråa, 10.2 MW Tosdalen, and 7.4 MW Bjørnstokk).
Austrian pumped storage developers completed two expansion projects in 2018. In the west, the 360 MW Obermuntwerk II project employs a ternary configuration of individual pumps and turbines (each 180 MW), which are highly flexible and allow for faster-responding, operation over a broader range, allowing the project to better respond to modern grid requirements arising from variable wind and solar. Utilising waters in the already existing Silvretta and Vermunt reservoirs, the project will also increase the efficiency of the entire fleet. Further east, in Salzburg, the 50-year-old Dießbach project was converted into a pumped storage project by adding 24 individual pumps operating in a matrix. The innovative matrix coupling of the pumps allows, like in Obervermuntwerk II, for faster and highly adjustable outputs while pumping, thereby increasing overall plant flexibility. The project’s turbine installed capacity remains at 24 MW, while its pumps can operate at a maximum of 32 MW.
In the United Kingdom, a number of proposed pumped storage projects in Scotland received considerable media attention in 2018. The proposed projects look to provide balancing services for Scottish off-shore windfarms, and many of these will use existing infrastructure. France is also pursuing increased energy storage deployment, targeting 10 GW of new storage by 2035 (see country profile).
After two years of construction, Iceland completed the 100 MW Búrfell II project, which utilises water from the reservoir of the existing Burfell project in order to maximise exploitation of strong flows from the Þjórsá River. The station consists of a single 100 MW turbine, but future plans anticipate a 40 MW addition.
Slovenia commissioned the 45 MW Brežice project during 2018. It is the fourth of a five-project cascade along the Sava River, which include the already completed Boštanj, Blanca and Krško projects and the planned 28 MW Mokrice project, a further 10 kilometres downstream.
Picture: Floating photovoltaics at the Alto Rabagão pumped storage reservoir, Portugal. Credit: EDP.
This regional profile is featured in the 2019 Hydropower Status Report. Download the report: hydropower.org/statusreport
This profile was last updated in May 2019.